GS 2010 art 127

GS 2010 Article 127 – Hymn: Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands

1.          Material

  • 1.1        Letters from Ancaster (8.3.J.36), Attercliffe (8.3.J.25), Carman East (8.3.J.3), Chilliwack (8.3.J.14), Burlington-Ebenezer (8.3.J.26), Fergus North (8.3.J.33), Grand Valley (8.3.J.10), Neerlandia (8.3.J.23), London (8.3.J.30), Winnipeg-Redeemer (8.3.J.41, Appendix 3), and Taber (8.3.J.27).
  • 1.2       SCBP Report, Section Four, 10.3.II.4 (8.2.j).

2.          Observations

  • 2.1        This hymn is about the death and resurrection of Christ.
  • 2.2        One of the churches objected to the reference to Christ standing at God’s right hand, since we generally read and speak about him sitting at God’s right hand.
  • 2.3        One of the churches objected to the description of Christ as “the sun that warms and lights us; By His grace does He impart eternal sunshine to the heart.”
  • 2.4        Several churches, referring to the opening line of the hymn, objected to the “Lutheran” concept of Christ’s status during the time that his body lay in the grave.
  • 2.5        Some churches objected that this hymn failed to meet Guideline 5. They point to such expressions as “When life and death contended, the victory remained with life” (stanza 2, line 1-2) and “His death has swallowed up our death” (stanza 2, line 3).
  • 2.6        One of the churches wondered why the hymn was being proposed when there were so many concerns raised in connection with it.
  • 2.7        Some churches observed that God does not “invite” us to keep the holy day; rather, he commands us to do so.

3.         Considerations

  • 3.1        In Acts 7:55, Stephen testifies that he saw Christ standing at the right hand of God. Therefore there is nothing unscriptural in this expression.
  • 3.2        In Numbers 24:27, Malachi 1:7, II Peter 1:19, and Revelation 22:16, the Lord Jesus is identified as the Sun, or the Morning Star; in II Peter 1:19 the apostle speaks about the Sun of Righteousness rising in our hearts. Therefore, there is nothing objectionable about speaking about Christ and his work in this way. Furthermore, in current Hymn 26 in the second stanza, we sing to Christ as “Sun of Righteousness and Glory, Dawning with Thy healing light.”
  • 3.3        As pointed out by the SCBP in its rationale, what is said in the first line is biblical and clearly conveys what we confess in LD 16, that Christ’s burial testifies that he really died. There is nothing unscriptural about what is expressed in these words.
  • 3.4        Stanza 2 is clearly about the victory of Christ over death, and that is also the kind of language that Paul uses in I Corinthians 15, when he speaks about the resurrection of Christ. It is an appropriate way to speak about what Christ did when he died and rose again.
  • 3.5        While it is true that many concerns have been raised in connection with this hymn, the real issue is: What is the true weight of the concerns? And: Do the objections expose unscriptural or other wrong expressions in the hymn? The objections which have been raised have been adequately answered in the light of Scripture and our Confessions.
  • 3.6        God’s commands are at the same time invitations, and vice versa. To set them over against each other is to create a false dilemma. The word “invite” reflects something of the gracious character and intention of God’s demand. Thus, the use of the word “invite” in speaking about God’s command to keep the holy day is appropriate.

4.          Recommendation

That Synod decide to approve the Hymn Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands for inclusion in the expanded hymn section of the Book of Praise as recommended by the SCBP.